I’ve been working on a graphic novel for a bit and one of the characters I’ve had to rework the most is one of the leads; he’s both a co-protagonist and partial antagonist.
A bit about Beibi (formerly named "Gene"): he’s a pop-star-level sensation, but in the dancing world. At first, I designed him super lanky — felt appropriate when thinking about dancing moves — so he’d be the complete opposite of Jesus Apollo’s shape/design. Although Beibi/Gene is supposed to be a heartthrob, initially I didn’t want to make him look like one, so I gave him a long face and big Jimmy Neutron-ish hair, along with some big ears.
As I continued working on the story, I realized the previous design was no longer working with the new designs and the new direction of the overall project. On top of that, there was another problem: he was too tall. Between his lankiness and the level of how stretched-out he was, placing him next to Jesus Apollo and other characters in full-body panels was becoming a huge problem (and mind you, they are supposed to be together a lot, so yeah…) This led me to revise the character entirely.
I startled playing with different shapes as I reconstructed his face. Different eyes, nose positions, bone structure, no bone structure, etc… and then went on to try out different hairstyles. I liked the long/blond one, and for a moment was going to add a joke where he had a hair change, but eventually decided not to.
As I continued to play with shapes, I came up with something like this…
Although a slightly more cartoony approach, it finally felt right, like he belonged in this world, and I was finally happy with it.
After letting it simmer, I went back and redrew him with that design in mind and that’s when his final design happened.
As you can see, it is extremely similar to the previous version, but with a few tweaks. I went ahead and changed his hair (the former one seemed too complicated and the new one seemed more fitting — more like what a teen idol would wear). However, his design was not the only thing that changed. With a new look I went ahead and came up with a new name: Beibi. The name isn’t a random choice; there’s actually a whole story behind it (it’s short for something else), that I’m choosing not to get into because it contains one to many spoilers. All at once, I was way more content with the character as a whole. I could picture him more organically in my head; more like a person rather than a stiff cartoon. However, I did keep one thing from the initial design…. Can you tell what that is?
The ears. Well, kind of, as the shapes are different, but the principle is the same; I wanted him to have big ears that stuck out to the side, disrupting the somewhat harmony of his face.
What do you think? I’m still a fan of the initial design. There’s a lot of things I like about it. Yet I didn’t feel like it worked well within the story and alongside the other characters. But I suppose that’s part of the process.
Thanks for reading!